After a disappointing past two seasons, Rafael Nadal of Spain will open his 2016 Australian Open campaign against compatriot Fernando Verdasco on Tuesday at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia.
Nadal, who recovered a bit in the latter part of the 2015 ATP season to climb back to World No. 5 in the ATP rankings, admitted that he’s in for a difficult first round match-up in the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.
“It will be a very tough first round,” Nadal said via the tournament’s official website. “It’s not a lucky first round for me, but not for him either. It’ll be a tough match. I need to be ready to play very good tennis if I want to go through.”
Two years ago, Nadal made the final of the 2014 Australian Open where he fell to Swiss pro Stan Wawrinka, 3–6 2–6 6–3 3–6. That would be the Spaniards’ last Grand Slam championship round appearance in 2014 and 2015 as he struggled with various injuries and even admitted that he also struggled with the mental aspect of the game.
Nadal made the quarterfinals of last year’s Australian Open but also got booted out early in the three other Grand Slam tournaments, quarterfinals at his favorite, French Open and in the early rounds of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships (second round) and 2015 US Open (third round).
Against compatriot Verdasco, Nadal has been dominant in their head-to-head series. In 17 matches, Nadal has won 15. However, Verdasco, who is ranked 45th in the world, has recently won over Nadal in the round of 32 stage of the 2015 Miami Masters in three sets, 6-4 2-6 6-3.
Photo courtesy: rafaelnadalfans.com